Business Insider/Melia RobinsonOur language needs quotation marks. Without them, we couldn't know who said what to whom or even what they meant.
Unfortunately, using them can prove tricky. Quotations marks appear in both double and single form with other punctuation placed inside or outside of them depending on the situation.
We've broken down what you need to know to use them correctly in American English.
Direct quotes require quotation marks. If you want to write exactly what someone said or wrote, you'll need to use double quotations marks to offset the sentence or phrase.
Example: My brother said, "We should go to the liquor store and buy some Scotch."
Note: If a full paragraph of quoted material is followed by more quoted material, don't place a quotation mark at the end of the paragraph. Do, however, begin the next paragraph with a quotation mark.
Some titles require quotation marks. Many grammar guides — including the Associated Press Stylebook, which BI follows — list every title you need to surround with quotation marks. But we prefer a simple guideline for general writing: If the creative work exists inside a larger creative work, use quotes.
For example, you'd place an essay featured in a book within double quotation marks, while the book's title simply requires italics. A single track on a CD also needs quotation marks, as would an episode in a TV show or an article in a newspaper or magazine.
ou can also use quotation marks to emphasize a word or phrase, often marking sarcasm or irony.
Example: Let's go "buy" some Scotch. (Maybe you intend to steal or otherwise nab a bottle for free.)
But many writers discourage these so-called scare quotes. They can mislead readers and seem a bit too snarky.
First, let's address single quotation marks.
One rule covers this: Use single quotation marks instead of the standard double quotations within another quoted phrase. This holds true for direct quotes, titles, and scare quotes appearing in another quoted phrase.
Example: "Your brother just said, 'We should go to the liquor store and buy some Scotch, '" my friend explained.
Next, we'll go over proper punctuation placement around quotations. Again, these rules refer to American English. Don't listen to the Brits.
Periods always go inside quotation marks, except in sentences with a citation. (You can look up MLA and APA references on your own.)
You'll also never double-up on punctuation. Use a comma, period, question mark, etc., but don't use two of those in a row.